Free days out in the Midlands

From the peaceful Peak District to cosmopolitan Birmingham, the marvellous Midlands boasts some real architectural gems.

Clumber park trees

by Lorna White |

If you live in the midlands or close by, there's so much for you to explore that's right on your doorstep. From stunning National Trust parks, to a huge world of history to explore, we've put together some of our midlands highlights for you to put on your bucket list.

Norfolk: A breath of sea air

North Norfolk coast

You’ll hear Brancaster beach before you see it along this stretch of the North Norfolk coast. The sound of the sea crashing on the shale as you approach it is quite incredible. Although maintained by the National Trust, there is no charge to enjoy the beach. Car parking charges apply, or walk from the village.

Find out more about visiting this stunning beach and organise your visit.

Cambridge: Meet Pooh bear

Winnie the Pooh

See the original copy of Winnie-the-Pooh at the Wren Library in Cambridge’s Trinity College. Open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Call 01223 338488. Afterwards, take a walk along the famous Backs, where you can see incredible views of many of the colleges, including Kings.

Nottingham: Explore your arty side

Pop into Nottingham Contemporary, a four-gallery venue packed with modern art and changing exhibitions as well as a performance space. Call 0115 948 9750 or book your visit at nottinghamcontemporary.org.

Dudley: Kick up the leaves

See autumn at its most beautiful at Saltwells Local Nature Reserve, Dudley. One of the UK’s largest urban nature reserves it was planted in the 18th Century to disguise the damage of coal mining. Watch the colours change on oaks and beech trees, and look out for treecreeper, jay and great spotted woodpecker. Worth visiting in spring for carpets of bluebells and in summer for 16 species of dragonfly. Find out more about the Nature Reserve here.

Holkham: Gone twitching

Holkham National Nature reserve

Hunt for wildfowl, from pink-footed geese to wigeon and flocks of lark and finches in the huge 1,000 acres of Holkham National Nature Reserve. Visit Wells-next-the-Sea beach, which is part of the Holkham Estate. Dogs are allowed on most of it too! Find out more about Holkham here.

Leicestershire: Lock, stock

Wander at your leisure around Foxton locks (first opened 200 years ago) and watch colourful narrowboats navigate its ten notorious locks. If you want to learn more about the area, you can visit the Boilerhouse museum (tickets cost £3).

Lincoln: Historical trail

Lincoln

Wander the streets of Lincoln to discover its dramatic past. The self-guided 1217 Battle of Lincoln tour can be downloaded from the website visitlincoln.com/trails.

Birmingham: Three Brum ideas

Birmingham

When visiting Birmingham, why not explore one of the following:

Moseley Bog

An area protected by the Wildlife Trust, three miles outside Birmingham. Not only is it of archaeological interest, but it was the childhood playground of The Hobbit author, JRR Tolkien.

Lapworth Geological Museum

This museum is packed with fossils and minerals, including samples from dinosaurs and a sabre-toothed tiger. Call 0121 414 7294 or organise your visit at birmingham.ac.uk.

Weoley Castle

View the 750-year-old ruins of the castle from a viewing platform on Alwold Road. Open every day, the ruins are the remains of a fortified manor house that was inhabited from the 12th Century.

Norfolk: Smell of success

For a fragrant afternoon, visit Norfolk Lavender. Of course the 100 acres of cultivated lavender are at their best over the summer months, but you can still enjoy the herb garden, plant nursery, gift shop, farm shop and café year-round. Call 01485 570384 or book your visit at norfolk-lavender.co.uk.

Afterwards, pop into Kings Lynn to see the famous Leaning Tower (behind the library) which has been slowly tipping to one side since it was built in the 15th Century.

Four ways to step back in time

Thetford: Dad’s Army Museum

Dad's Army

Discover more about the filming of the cult series, then enjoy a cuppa and a teacake in the Forties-style Marigold Tea Rooms. Open on Saturdays March-December. You can also pre-book a tour of the town’s filming locations for £10pp. Call 0756 268 8641 or visit dadsarmythetford.org.uk.

Wolverhampton: Bantock House Museum

Discover the Edwardian era on a visit to this Grade II listed former family home which has been restored to its former splendour and also has 43 acres of parkland to explore. Call 01902 552195 or find out more about organising your visit here.

Coventry Transport Museum

Packed with 300 bikes, 120 motorbikes, 250 cars and much more. A lovely nostalgic day out. Call 0247 623 4270 or find out more here.

Nottinghamshire: Sherwood Forest Country Park and visitor centre

Sherwood Forest

Once part of a royal hunting forest, the reserve covers 450 acres. Car parking is £3. Find out more about booking your visit here.

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